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Thursday, September 9, 2010
Luebke out duels Billingsley in Match-Up of Western Ohio Hurlers
45 degrees said the Internet weather temperature for the Celina area when I began my daily walk around town and the shore of Grand Lake this morning...I actually slipped on a long sleeve heavy T-shirt as I began the journey. The sun was shining bright and a light northwest wind was at my back when I started out...50 minutes later, shower done, her I am at the keyboard downing my second cup of coffee. The main subject of today's blog was settled before Midnight last evening.
Cory Luebke grabs first MLB Victory____
Mercer County, which Celina is the county seat, is home to some 45,000 folks, mostly of the rural German Catholic variety. It is Ohio's largest agriculture county when it comes to farm receipts, and is home to as good of high school sports teams as you'll find for a place that is 99.5% white as the driven snow. With those good sports teams, you are bound to get a select group that make the big time...from Jim Otis of Celina in the 70s, to Jim Lachey, Bobby Hoying, and Jeff Hartings, all of St. Henry, in the NFL from the 1980s through the early 2000s. In baseball, the great Wally Post of the Cincinnati Reds, also from tiny St. Henry, to the Brunswick brothers from Coldwater who made their marks in the minor leagues before turning to coaching...throw in some great players in the college ranks post and present, this small county is way ahead of the curve when it comes to athletics and academics. It's something we can all hang our hat's on...while much of the country has turned into a diversified mass of humanity, Mercer County, Ohio, has for the most part, kept it's families, traditions, and lifestyles, in tact.
So it was with interest last night, as I watched the Reds get destroyed by the Colorado Rockies for the 3rd straight game, that I prepared to watch ESPN coverage of the San Diego Padres face off with the Los Angles Dodgers. Two teams that I have little interest in as a fan...but both sporting area youngsters that I had the chance to stand behind the plate and call balls and strikes when they were in high school. And they were going to face off in last night's game.
Chad Billingsley of Defiance signed with the Dodgers after they drafted him, right out of high school. He moved up the latter quickly, and is now one of the mainstays of the LA staff. Chad graduated in 2002, the same year as youngest son Hal, who was a backup catcher for Celina during the same time...Celina and Defiance are both in the same league, and both had excellent talent that senior season. But none as good at Chad Billingsley. The Defiance Bulldogs have for the most part dominated the Western Buckeye League for the past 2 decades, and have Billingsley and Jonathon Niese of the NY Mets, working in the National League, and both doing well.
Cory Luebke is from Maria Stein, a small farming community sitting in Marion Township here in Mercer County. The Marion Local Flyers are part of the powerful small school conference, The Midwest Athletic Conference. The MAC has more state championships than any conference in the state of Ohio. From Football, to Basketball, Baseball, and Volleyball, Cross Country, and Track..it is a top flight league, both academically and athletically. Marion Local has it's share of state titles in Football, Basketball, and girls Volleyball in recent years...Baseball? Well baseball has always been an after thought at Marion. Coldwater, St. Henry, and Parkway, have been the dominate schools in baseball in the MAC....The Flyers? Not so much.
My youngest son Hal, coached for 5 years at ML during the ACME summer season, that was a frustration for him, because football and basketball were king, and even during the summer, those sports coaches needed the players time and efforts....baseball was second fiddle, it still is. Not so for Cory Luebke, a 2004 graduate. Straight out of the Flyers rotation, Cory headed to Ohio State, where he was in the starting rotation for 3 years. He had been drafted deep in the draft by Pittsburgh, but decided to stay with OSU though his Junior season, and it worked out for the 6'5" lean lefty. He was drafted in 2007 in the 1st round as a supplemental by the Padres...3 years bouncing around the minors from Elsinore, Fort Wayne, San Antonio, and the Portland Beavers, the Padres changed his delivery and he finally got the "call up" from the big club on September 1st....after a rough first 2 innings in his opening start last week, Cory retired the last 9 batters he faced in a 4-3 loss. Last night, at home he faced fellow western Ohio native Billingsley, and left no doubt he was ready for the bigs.....6 innings 7 strike outs, 2 hits, 1 walk, and no runs later...he was replace by a pinch hitter, and the bullpen did the rest....4-0 was the final, and the Padres, after 10 straight loses, won their 3rd straight, to retain their lead in the NL Western Division.
Billingsley, now the veteran, pitched well, but was wild and suffered his 9th loss of the season, compared to 11 wins. For me, it was fun watching 2 guys that I had worked behind the plate while they pitched in high school and American Legion, not all that long ago.
Tonight it's back to football, as I travel to Waynesfield for a Junior High game....no filling in this Friday, so I will work a JV game at Spencerville on Saturday....as for now, I plan on enjoying the weather, which is as close to perfect as one can expect in western Ohio.
Photos-The sun was out bright, but the temperatures were cool, in the mid 40s, as I made my way this morning....the sun bouncing off "The Hot Water Hole", and as I rounded the bend on Grand Lake Road, I spotted one of the dozen or so Great Herons in that area, waiting for his breakfast. Cory Luebke of the Padres out pitched his fellow Western Ohio hurler, Chad Billingsley of the Dodgers in a 4-0 shutout last night.